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How to cope with a terrorist attack? Challenges to political and administrative leadership

Professor Tom Christensen
University of Olslo, Norway
Date: 1 May 2012
Time: 1:00pm – 2:30pm
Venue: KSW 3.01

Abstract

When the terrorist struck in Oslo July 22, 2011, some of the central ministries were destroyed and many young people killed eventually at a summer camp. In the hours, days and weeks after the attack the political and administrative leadership has struggled to cope with the effects of the attacks. Overall, the political leadership and in particular the PM has been praised for its reactions and handling, while the most involved public organization, the police and its leadership, has been criticized for what they did or did not do when it all happened and for its handling afterwards.
Organization for crisis management and internal security is a typical 'wicked issue' that transcends organizations, policy areas and administrative levels. A main hypothesis is that formal organization is a critical factor in understanding and managing risks and crises. But at the same time it is also emphasized in the crisis management literature that when a major disaster happens it is often necessary to supplement existing formal organizations with improvisation and temporary organizational arrangements.
The point of departure in this paper is to describe the pattern of reaction and handling of the political and administrative leadership, describe their differentiated challenges and explain why their actions draw such differentiated reactions from the public, media and involved stake-holders. Has that something to do with that they play different roles, respectively a more general role for the political executive and a more specific and practical role for the police leadership? Or has this something to do with how they reacted initially when the terrorist attack happened? Descriptive crises management theories and explanatory instrumental and institutional theories are applied in order to understand the handling of the crisis.

About the speaker

Tom Christensen is Professor of Public Administration and Organization Theory at Department of Political Science, University of Oslo. He is also Adjunct Professor at University of Bergen and City University of Hong Kong. He has published extensively in journals like Public Administration, Governance, International Review of Administrative Sciences and American Review of Public Administration. His latest book, co-edited with Per Lægreid is The Ashgate Research Companion to New Public Management, Ashgate, 2011.

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